School tax supporters score resounding victory
by Lindsay Field
March 19, 2013 05:15 PM | 23918 views | 49 49 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
John Loud, chairman of the pro-SPLOST IV group United 4 Kids, reacts Tuesday night at Willie Rae’s in Marietta as the votes begin favoring passage of the school tax. Looking on are Sharon Mason, left, Cobb Chamber of Commerce COO, and Terri Guthrie, executive vice president of First Landmark Bank.<br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
John Loud, chairman of the pro-SPLOST IV group United 4 Kids, reacts Tuesday night at Willie Rae’s in Marietta as the votes begin favoring passage of the school tax. Looking on are Sharon Mason, left, Cobb Chamber of Commerce COO, and Terri Guthrie, executive vice president of First Landmark Bank.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
slideshow
Andrew Gan, left, and Danielle Welsh, both of Marietta, check in with poll workers Tuesday before voting at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in east Cobb.<br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Andrew Gan, left, and Danielle Welsh, both of Marietta, check in with poll workers Tuesday before voting at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in east Cobb.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
slideshow
Those in favor of SPLOST IV were thrilled with the overwhelming support they received at the polls Tuesday.

Voters approved $773.3 million for Cobb and Marietta school districts to be raised through a 1-cent special sales tax between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2018.

“My cheeks are a little sore from smiling so much,” said John Loud, the co-chair of the pro-SPLOST group United 4 Kids, shortly after the tax got a large push from the “yes” votes.

There were a total of 40,565 votes cast in the single-issue election, and of those votes 23,248, or 57 percent, were in favor of the tax, while 17,317, or 43 percent, opposed it.

By approving the county’s fourth education SPLOST, Cobb will collect approximately $717.8 million, and Marietta $55.4 million.

“The voters came out today to show their support,” Loud said. “Maybe the project list isn’t 100 percent the best for everybody, but as you look at the picture as a whole, it’s the right direction for the kids, community, economy.”

Loud, along with about 75 other voters in support of the initiative, spent their election night at a party at Willie Rae’s on the Marietta Square watching the results roll in on their computers.

Another person who spent a portion of their evening waiting on the results to come in at a restaurant on the Square was Marietta City School Board Chair Randy Weiner.

“I’m very grateful to the voters of Marietta City that they saw the value and the need in this SPLOST,” he said. “I’m just very happy tonight!”

Scott Sweeney, the Cobb Schools board member who represents east Cobb, said “the kids won tonight” in response to the passage of the special tax.

“Again, the Cobb County voters got this right and decided to continue their support of the SPLOST initiative,” he said.

Sweeney thanked several groups and individuals for their support of the tax, including Cobb’s Parent Teacher Associations, the Cobb Chamber of Commerce and others who formed their own pro-SPLOST campaigns.

“Their efforts are appreciated,” he said.

Vonda Shoemaker chairs the Walton High School Facilities Foundation, which is one of those organizations that pushed for passage of the initiative.

“I am thrilled for so many groups in Cobb County who will benefit from improved schools as a result of SPLOST IV, including our students, faculty members, parents and community partners,” she said.

Shoemaker said she also ws happy for the property owners, whom she believes will benefit from “high property values that tend to correlate with schools of excellence.”

Passage of SPLOST IV means Walton will eventually be rebuilt for a ticket price of about $40 million.

“Our youngest child is currently a junior and won’t be around to enjoy the improvements in Walton’s future, but it is a joy to have supported the referendum and know that the strong legacy of Walton and many other schools will continue because of today’s vote,” she said.

Not everyone was happy with the election’s outcome.

Lance Lamberton, a member of the Cobb Taxpayers Association who has been adamantly against passage of SPLOST IV since the board first discussed creation of the project list, said he “fully expected” the yes votes to win.

“We just didn’t know by how much we were going to lose,” he said.

He was pleased with the number of votes they picked up compared to the 2008 SPLOST III election, when around 5,000 fewer voters visited the polls.

“We think the grassroots effort … made a difference,” Lamberton said. “It was really like David and Goliath, especially if you compare resources.”

With his group had, Lamberton is hoping to build upon that foundation for the next time.

“I think our focus now is going to be changing the rules of how and when these elections are held,” he said. “We also want to look at the fractional SPLOST idea, no public moneys used to propagandize and election dates.”

He said that if those changes can be made, the actual components of future SPLOSTs will change.

By approving SPLOST IV, voters approved the Cobb County School District project list valued at $717.8 million. The list includes the rebuilding of Walton High School, two replacement elementary schools for $23.3 million each, a $29.8 million career academy, $29.9 million Osborne High School rebuild and an east Cobb area middle school replacement at a cost of $29.1 million.

Marietta City Schools’ $55.4 million list includes paying off $15.2 million in debt, $16 million in technology upgrades, $20 million toward construction, modifications, renovations and equipment and $2 million for transportation.
Comments
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FalconRob
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March 20, 2013
To Only rational person and AmericanMale...great comments. I agree with both of you, but many of the people who voted "no" do not want to accept logical arguments. They would rather spew their hateful, ignorant comments. Going out of county just to avoid paying 1 cent for YOUR County's schools...really??!!
Just Sayin'....
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March 25, 2013
Falcon Rob - I will continue to support Cobb county schools to the tune of almost 6,000. per year in property taxes. I will still support Cobb County schools as an active member of two PTSA's. I will still support Cobb County schools by participating in every darn fund-raiser they throw at us. What I will not do, however, is willingly fund the expense of several new theaters, gyms, or concession stands while we are not meeting our contractual obligations to our teachers, or increasing class size, or making the school year shorter by 5 additional days, and not increasing class time for academics.

Might I suggest to you, that you start contacting all your pro-SPLOST buddies right now, and see what they can come up with to help us prop up the existing system. BTW, there is NO money to maintain all these new facilities...or the old ones for that matter....in the general fund. In case you did not know, that is where maintenance funds come from....not your SPLOST.
Scary Stuff
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March 20, 2013
It would seem there are quite a few angry, bitter and generally ignorant people out there. It also seems that Cobb County has a whole lot more of them than just about any other place. I can't believe this vote was as close as it was. I'm pretty sure it's generational, though, and it won't be too long before the last of the Fellowship Of the Miserable have passed on from Marietta and Cobb County. They are characterized by hostile beliefs that are varying degrees of anti-tax, anti-government, anti-immigration, racist and isolationist. They don't believe that there can be such a thing as a responsible tax that benefits our schools, helps keep our educational systems strong in a time of major cuts to operating budgets, helps build an educated workforce that sustains our community, attracts profitable businesses and jobs, increases property values and grows the GDP that will provide Social Security for the elder generation. In short, they don't understand much at all about economics. Their view is as narrow as it is selfish: "They're not going to take one more cent of my money!" Attitudes like this are the result of ignorance, plain and simple. How can anyone argue that holding an election at a time when 100 percent of the electorate is informed is somehow worse than holding an election at a time when 90 percent of the electorate will be uninformed? Seriously, does that make any sense at all? Of course not, and yet there are some making that very argument in the comments below. They argue it is better to have a larger number of people voting, even if those people have no idea what they are voting for. And for some of them to question John Loud's integrity? My God, Mr. Loud has more integrity, charisma and economic sense than the whole lot of these cave people put together.

It is ironic that they choose to cast stones, once again, based on their ignorance of the world around them. These paragons of virtue who dare question the integrity of others no doubt cast their allegiance with the Cobb Taxpayers Alliance, an organization so devoid of integrity that it put out a threatening phone call on the eve of the election that claimed the school district would take away the precious senior exemption for school property tax. The claim was 100-percent a lie and a desperate and deceptive attempt to scare seniors and sway the vote. Is that an honest way of doing business? Or, how about the fact that the organization hasn't even filed its paperwork with the Secretary of State, as required by law. Has anyone bothered to check that out? How about you, MDJ? Where is the reporting on that one? Is breaking the law just another example of conservative virtue from the people who purport to know what is best for us? And they have the nerve to state that the school district is somehow mismanaging public funds without providing a shred of evidence. It almost defies belief.

Fortunately, I see better days ahead. The sons and daughters of these troglodytes seem to have much better walking-around sense. They seem to have a more sophisticated understanding of the world around them, and a more practical acceptance of how to make it grow and prosper. I, for one, am optimistic. The SPLOST program has been renewed and no one will suffer for it. No one's taxes are increasing, and no one is going to go bankrupt paying the same one-percent they've paid for the last 15 years! Good for Cobb County, good for the schools, and good for the taxpayers.
Just Sayin'....
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March 20, 2013
I forgot to mention that I will make up for part of the 1% by unemploying Mr. Loud's security firm.
FalconRob
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March 20, 2013
So many self-centered and ignorant voters. I can understand some of the criticism of the special election cost, but otherwise, opposing SPLOST makes no sense. Every project (public or private) has some waste...that, alone, is a ridiculous reason to oppose it. The fact is, without SPLOST, our schools would be even more grossly underfunded. And, yes, it is not really a "special" tax anymore...it should be a permanent part of our sales taxes. Finally, it was not a tax increase. It was a vote to keep the sales tax at 6%, which is a very reasonable level.
anonymous
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March 20, 2013
Baaaaaaaaa
Only rational person
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March 20, 2013
The vitriol in some of these comments is amazing!

"NOT ONE MORE CENT UNTIL WE STOP THE WASTE!" is the battle cry, even though few of these zealots can identify the specific "waste" (unless you define waste as gyms, auditoriums, and athletic facilities as waste, even though these are components of all schools, private and public).

God man!, facilities wear out and need to be replaced. Buildings built in the 1960s and 1970s were not designed to last into the 21st century. Further, schools are high occupancy with a lot of children, so they take a lot more abuse than an office building.

As far as this being the 4th SPLOST, SO WHAT? Maintenance and replacement construction are an ongoing process. The first 2 SPLOSTs were primarily to address rapid growth in the county. SPLOST 3 was part growth and part addressing old facilities. SPLOST 4 is the first one dedicated to replacing old, moldy, and in some cases rat infested facilities.

The bottom line here is that most who are opposed don't really have a grip on the needs to maintain a school system with 120,000 students. Rather, these folks, many in retirement, cling onto made up or out of context "facts" to justify not contributing anything to the society that they live off of (i.e. the ridiculous school property tax exemption for people over 65, even though all of the kids educated in the system take care of them).

So go ahead and spend $6 in gas money to drive to Paulding County so you can save $1 on a $100 purchase. We would expect that kind of logic from you.
Devlin Adams
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March 20, 2013
They have had 2 BILLION dollars in the last 15 years to keep our schools up to snuff. they have failed to do so.

Artificial turf - waste (the ongoing maintenance is hidden from the public)

Technology that is still sitting in its original packaging - waste

Technology bought, then instructional training cancelled, so it is not being used - waste.

Classes for bus drivers on how to pump gas - waste

Shall I go on?

By the way. it is not 120,000 students, it is 107,000, per CCSD's figure, Who gave you yours?

You drank the Kool-aid, now you are angry at those who did not.

RM11
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March 20, 2013
Very well said! Amen.
anonymous
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March 20, 2013
I don't think the school property tax exemption for people over 65 is ridiculous at all. I think it is showing a little respect for our elders that did so very much for us and for society during their long lives.
AmericanMale
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March 20, 2013
A lot of folks here are unhappy with the vote being separate from last November's vote. Consider this: Is it better to have more people vote, even if they are unfamiliar with the issue? The reality is that most people don't bother to learn facts. Is it better to have votes cast only as a side-bar to national issues? Cobb Schools regularly outshine other districts in Georgia and even throughout the nation, yet many would justify their vote on poor performance of other school districts.

Didn't like the projects list? Where were you when it was being discussed in the public meetings last fall?! Why didn't you express your concerns then?! I saw meetings where others did express their concerns and the project list was revised as a result.

Think "they should learn to live on a tighter budget like we have to at home?" What makes you think they don't?! Four or five years ago, the budget was about $1.2 Billion for teaching 106,000 students. NOW the budget is about $800 Million for teaching more than 107,000 students! Have you really cut YOUR home budget by 30% ? Really?!

Seniors enjoy exemption from school property taxes now. The Ed-SPLOST passage means that is more likely to stay that way.

If you don't like the way taxes are in Cobb, you can move to any of the surrounding counties and pay MORE that you do here... your choice.
Just Wait
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March 20, 2013
"Overwhelming support" of only 23,000 votes in a county with a population of 700,000. I think not. What would the vote have been if this was included in a general election instead of a one issue special election? I wonder how many more times they can pull out the "it's for the kids" slogan before the citizens realize it's for the bureaucrats at the school board.
anonymous
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March 20, 2013
Its a pretty damn back situation when 40,000 voters make a decision that affects thousands.

But then that is the primary reason the BOC held a special election.

Its time for our law makers to limit special elections for electing an official in a dire circumstance such as death.

Special elections are not for sneaking a tax past unknowning citizens. And as another poster said where was the advertising.
Five% - it's nothing
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March 20, 2013
Over 62 property owners in Cobb now will continue to pay the extra 1%. And as usual,complaining.

Big deal. Compare that to Cobb property owners in Cobb, UNDER 62, who would have ended up with a school board increase in their property taxes if the E-SPLOST had not passed last night. They certainly are not complaining about the extra one percent.

Over 62, complaining about paying one extra percent when shopping. It's not 10%.
Warren Kuhn
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March 20, 2013
Not to mention the non-property owners in Cobb who wouldn't have paid a penny in taxes from a property tax hike. With the SPLOST the tax burden is spread evenly.
Dr. Teresa
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March 20, 2013
I KNOW you are better informed than you pretend to be. Why do you give the Cobb legislative delegation a free pass on sending YOUR tax dollars to other counties and putting it in the general fund through millions of dollars of austerity cuts? The local school systems have no alternatives except SPLOST. You people who claim you will spend in other counties will be giving even MORE of your tax dollars to other counties for THEIR SPLOST. In all other counties the success of an E-SPLOST vote is a given, but not in Cobb because of some of you short sighted thinkers. GO AFTER THE POWERS UNDER THE GOLD DOME, BUT NOT TO CHANGE THE DATES OF SPECIAL ELECTIONS, BUT FOR THEM TO GIVE YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY BACK TO YOUR OWN COUNTY!!!!!!!!!
Be Careful
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March 20, 2013
People have totally forgotten that a "good school" is not defined by it's building, theater or gym.

It's defined by the teachers, the quality of the education, the graduation rate.

New gym, new theater...does not equal good education.

Using SPLOST to pay off debt doesn't solve the problem. As soon as the money is spent, if they don't get their budget under control they will be right back in the same situation.

And shame on John Loud. He's a business owner and SHOULD understand economics. How can he support such a stupid system of constantly taking more money from citizens to prop up a faulty education budget?

The way he's been planting himself in the news lately makes me think he's planning on running for office.

In that case, we don't need another clueless person in office if he's in favor of this never ending SPLOST mess.
Cobb Resident
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March 20, 2013
We purchased our home in East Cobb solely for the schools. The schools keep your property values up. My child is at Walton and one will be there in 3 more years. My current high schooler complains about the overcrowding all the time. I for one am happy the tax passed.

Just Sayin'....
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March 20, 2013
I will now do the majority of my spending in other counties. While it makes no difference to the SPLOST victory, I hate the thought that I am spending even one red cent on new theaters and gyms when we are not living up to our contractual obligations by paying our teachers what we owe them. Shame on the CCSB for this.
No You Won't
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March 20, 2013
This is about as likely as Six Flags moving to Paulding!
Nettie Stemm
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March 20, 2013
It would be interesting to audit the books and ind out how much taxpayer money has gone to Mr. Loud's company(ies), and to Superior Plumbing over the past five years of SPLOSTIII. Even more interesting would be to know how much of OUR money they have been promised from SPLOSTIV.
John Loud
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March 20, 2013
So that you are aware and I state this clearly. LOUD Security Systems and/or John Loud has NEVER in my company's 18 year history received a check from either the Cobb County School System, the Marietta City Schools or the Cobb County Government.

Nor has there been any monies from any past SPLOSTS or vendors paid via SPLOST projects ever been given to me or my company LOUD Security Systems, Inc.

I also have no interest in bidding or working on any of the future SPLOST funded projects. Public School systems is not the scope of work LOUD Security works in.

We do however do many private schools and large church facilities.

This was about what is the best for our school system, best for the children in our community, best for the Cobb County Property Taxpayer (for which I own 4 properties)best for our property values and future economic development.

John Loud
Just Sayin'....
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March 20, 2013
Mr. Loud -

First, if you are going to put yourself out there, you need to toughen up.

Second, judging by the pic in the MDJ, you are busy basking in the sunshine of the Chamber folks. Must have been quite nice to have done their dirty work for them.

Third, while in your mind it is two separate issues, tomorrow we will hear the finance director for our school system tell everyone that the general fund is broke and that we are going to have to reduce the school week, educational time, and increase furlough days.....all while you and your SPLOST team get to plan new buildings, theaters, concession stands AND the occasional maintenance issue. It is certainly a great day to be YOU.
West Cobb Resident
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March 20, 2013
First let me say that I am:

a life-long Cobb resident

a home owning tax payer in Cobb

an Osborne graduate

am not an employee of Cobb

have no children.

According to the article on the AJC.com about this subject, it cost our county $300,000 to run this special election. Did the election in November sneak up on us! Seems like we could have had this on that ballet and voted then.

That's the part that really stinks about this. If they really believed in this so much why not put it on the ballet last November and let a much larger population give their opinion. And, yes, I actually do know why they don't. They can't stack the vote that way.

Get ready friends and neighbors. There will be SPLOST 5 and 6 and 7 and 8 and 9 and 10. THIS WILL NEVER END. The should change the name of this program... there is NOTHING and all "Special" about SPLOST!

Will there every be a point where we are "Taxed Enough Already?"

Good grief!

Scipio Spinks
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March 20, 2013
But, but, but, but...Nobody I know voted for it. How could this be?

Oh, it be!! BOOYAHHHHH!!!! One for the good guys!
OldWoodenBox
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March 20, 2013
Buy everything you can, in Paulding county from now own. Dont support this any more than you have to
BLISS 2 THIS
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March 20, 2013
YES! And let's move SIX FLAGS to Paulding too 'cause they create a TON of SPLOST funds. Oh wait...what?
Enjoy the tax
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March 20, 2013
did you realize that Paulding county has a 7% tax rate with 1% going toward education while cobb only has a 6% tax rate with 1% going toward education. Enjoy that extra 1% in paulding.
VFP42
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March 20, 2013
Once again the local Big Government Republicans in Cobb County GA achieve victory via gerrymandering!

Liberals in the City school district voted a well organized YES TAX US, overwhelming the Tea Party's NO, TAX ENUF ALREADY votes from unincorporated Cobb.

The Yes votes win, and the unincorporated residents go unrepresented in the vote, taxed against their will.

Or did it go down the other way 'round?

Either way, this vote that commingles separate school systems and separate voters, forcing the overall outcome onto both systems, STINKS and I would figure can't be any more legal than Roger Hines claimed the first Sunday Sales vote to be.

Walton Grad 1987
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March 20, 2013
My only problem with this has been echoed above. I voted against the SPLOST in protest of the election itself. An investigation into the Cobb County elections board is warranted.



If a single issue election is only unethical today it should be made illegal tomorrow. Cobb elections board obviously did not want the whole county to vote on this since since they staged it so only a network of beneficiaries would turn out to vote. 40,565 votes cast out of county with a population of 530,851 (Cobb residents over 18 - 2011 census)means 7.64% of the population was informed and involved in the vote. That is shameful and it worked as it was designed to work. Is this really the America we are proud to call home?
FROM TEXAS
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March 20, 2013
It’s just a temporary tax it’s only been around what 28 30 years. No child left behind no matter how much money you give the libels to train and turn your children into fine little socialist and get on the Democratic entitlement planation. Chuck Clay will be lighting cigars with $100.00 dollar bills just like the Good Ole Days good times are back the Cobb chamber will be partying this weekend.
Hey You...
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March 20, 2013
Obviously your "private" education did not include spelling. Go back to Texas if you don't like it here.
No Voter
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March 20, 2013
I am curious if Loud Security stands to benefit from this. Also, who do I tell when hings are purchased that were not on the public list? Tired of the waste in government
SPLOSTED again
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March 20, 2013
Forthy three percent voted "No." That alone should be a clear message to any educated person. Just wait till the cost overruns, and facility maintenance costs start showing up. Always happens. Nothing to celebrate here.
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